10 Tips For Visiting Ontario Wineries

With the last long weekend of summer looming, many are looking for an awesome adventure with which to end this great summer. Why not hit a couple of Ontario’s smaller family-run wineries? They are closer than you think and located all over the province (not just in Niagara or PEC).

Without getting too complicated then, here are some steps easy to get you planning your wine adventure:

1) Location: Decide if you are going to hit one of the areas with a high concentration of wineries (Niagara, PEC, or EPIC), or if you just want to try the place or two nearest your house. As you can see in the map above, there are wineries all over Ontario waiting to be discovered. Once you get outside of the big wine areas, you’ll find more fruit wines and hybrids but some innovative folks are making great wines with both fruit and hybrids (for those of you saying “Yuck!”, go see point 9 now and come back. Trust me when I say that you need to give these wines a chance!

2) Planning: Once you have the general location, you can use an app like UncorkOntario, the Ontario Wine Country map, or various online blogs to figure out which wineries you would like to hit. If it is your first time visiting wineries, anywhere from 2 to 3 would be the right number. Don’t worry if there is only one near you – it will still be worth the visit.

3) Designated Driver: If you are hitting many wineries in your trip, make sure you have a DD or book a tour with one of the many wine tour companies. Although samples are usually 1 oz or so, 5-6 wines sampled at 3-4 wineries can quickly add up. (Note samples average from $1-$3 each, but nearly all wineries waive the fees if you purchase wine).


4) Group size: Decide if you are going alone, as a couple, or with a group of friends. Large groups can be fun but some of the smaller wineries would appreciate advance notice for groups over 4-5 people.

5) Water: Bring what you think is lots of water, then add some more. Tasting is thirsty business.


6) Plan a route: Maybe you want to stop at the winery farthest from you and work backwards. Check the hours of operation and make sure you aren’t going to be disappointed. While most operate 10-6 on weekends, some open later and there are a couple that are not open on Sunday at all. (The Uncork Ontario iPhone app currently lists 10 different routes in PEC & Niagara as selected by different ON wine supporters)


7) Lunch and other area attractions: You should plan to eat somewhere along the way if you are doing multiple stops. Many wineries themselves have pizza or light food options but you should check first. The great thing about good wine is that it attracts fantastic chefs, so most wine regions have stellar restaurant choices as well! There are other things to see and do in every little town if you want to mix it up a bit.


8) Social Media: Almost all wineries are now on Twitter and Facebook although a few are not too active. Still most will appreciate a tweet letting them know you are on your way, delayed, etc. and all of them will greatly appreciate you tweeting the experience, or posting comments on their page.

9) Relax and submit yourself to the experience: Introduce yourself. Ask questions (there are no stupid questions) about how the wine is made, where the fruit comes from. Maybe you don’t like red wine…or only drink Pinot Grigio. This is a time to explore and try something different. You don’t have to like (or drink – that’s why they have spit buckets) everything you try, but you should let your guard down just for this trip. Who knows? You might just discover your favourite Ontario wine!

10) Purchase!: Remember most of these small wineries are family run, and less than 10% of the different wines made in Ontario each year make it into the LCBO. These small wineries need to sell wine at their wineries to survive. Not only that, but nearly $12 a liter goes back into ON economy for VQA wines vs <$1 for imported wines. So help our own economy, help the farmers, buy local, and have a great adventure all at the same time! 20120826-145456.jpg

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